As you may know or guess, GODSPELL JR. is a version of the popular, well-loved gospel musical created especially for a cast of teen-age and younger actors. This is an excellent idea because the show really requires the energy and exuberance of youth. The production by the Pineland Players in Medford Lakes certainly provides more than enough of both. The young players are on stage and having fun even before the show begins.
“Godspell” is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “good word” or “good news.” It eventually became the word “gospel.” The show was originally a college project by students atCarnegieMellonUniversity. It is based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, although it borrows a few parables from another gospel, that ofSt. John. You don’t have to know the Bible to enjoy it, but it helps. Some conservative Christian groups originally found it blasphemous, but it simply tells the story of Jesus and his teachings in novel and humorous ways. The cast, dressed in fanciful, colorful costumes, act out the parables and listen attentively as Jesus explains their meaning. The second act eventually turns serious as it depicts the Last Supper and Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. In a moving scene, he bids farewell to his followers, embracing each one while miming one of his or her characteristics. There is no resurrection scene, but the followers, starting with the youngest ones, sing “Long Live God” as they bear the body of Jesus offstage.
The original GODSPELL had a small cast, but the junior version has been expanded to include all the members of the youth ensemble of Pineland Players. (It should be mentioned that this group has done many junior versions of popular musicals in addition to its other productions.) Each cast member gets a chance to shine. If anyone in this group is singled out, it would have to be the one who plays Jesus. He is David Thomas, who displays a fine singing voice and excellent acting ability. The producers are Stephen E. Lottes and Laurel Hutt Thomas (who is also the director). Vocal direction is by Nancy DiYenno and choreography by dance teacher Fay Schanne, assisted by Jennifer Walker. All have done wonders with a large cast on a small stage.
The location is perfect for GODSPELL: the Memorial Hall adjacent to the ProtestantCommunityChurch, Stokes Road and Mohawk Trail, MedfordLakes. It is a small log cabin with parking in the rear and the entrance facing Stokes Road.
Book by John-Michael Tebelak
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Laurel Hutt Thomas
January 13-21, 2012
Memorial Hall at The Protestant Community Church
100 Stokes Road
Medford Lakes, NJ 08055